Ghost nets are real. They’re not a gadget that the Ghostbusters use to catch spectral manifestations. They’re not invisible fences to keep pets from leaving the yard. According to the Ocean Voyages Institute, they are massive nets made of nylon or polypropylene that can weigh tons and drift in the ocean for decades while ensnaring wildlife and sometimes even ships.
The Institute estimates around 600,000 tons of this abandoned fishing gear ends up in the ocean every year. Statistics from the United Nations say some 380,000 marine mammals are killed every year by either ingesting ghost nets or being caught in them.
That’s why they were a prime target for Ocean Voyages Institute’s 25-day cleanup mission in the Pacific this year. The cargo ship, S/V Kwai sailed to the area known as the North Pacific Subtropical Convergance Zone, more commonly known as the Pacific Gyre. This is where four ocean currents converge between California and Hawaii creating a vortex that collects massive amounts of plastics. The Kwai removed more than 40 tons of fishing nets and consumer plastics from the area.
KPIX, the CBS affiliate in the San Francisco Bay Area, interviewed Ocean Voyages Institute’s executive director, Mary Crowley, after the Kwai had returned.
They talked about the ghost nets as well as some of the technology that was used in tracking them down.